A uniquely local vaccination solution in the face of a global pandemic

Amid COVID-19 a medical centre in regional South Australia has found a unique way to immunise the community against the flu this season.


Practice Nurse Gabby Combe at the Crystal Brook Medical Centre says traditionally leading up to the flu season, the clinic, in conjunction with other outreach services in the Laura District, run events to encourage locals to get vaccinated.

According to Gabby the entire clinic gets involved including the hospital guild who organise cups of tea for those who partake in vaccinations.

But because of the need to maintain social distancing and other safety measures in the wake of COVID-19 this year, the clinic had to find new ways to immunise the community.

Gabby says on the suggestion of a GP the centre decided to run an immunisation event using a local footy oval where patients in their own vehicles would drive in to receive their vaccination.

Gabby, who was one of the lead organisers of the project, says initially she thought the initiative might be a bit tricky.

But with the help of the local community, particularly the local footy club and Apex Club, the public came through in droves.

Gabby says during the events 514 patients received vaccinations in Crystal Brook and a further 339 people were vaccinated in Laura.

The numbers dwarf last year’s totals, Gabby says.

“[The number of people] vaccinated in Crystal Brook, is more than what we vaccinated for the whole season last year, and the same for Laura.

“It’s so important… we need to keep [the community] well because if they got the influenza and then got the Coronavirus on top of it, that would be just so terrible for the patients.”

So how did they manage to vaccinate so many? According to Gabby, it took plenty of people power.

Police directed people to enter the oval, where a person would question prospective patients arriving in their vehicles about their locality to the area, to determine if they were regulars of the practice, before proceeding to have their COVID screenings done where they were asked questions about their recent whereabouts while also receiving a temperature check.

Those with an elevated temperature were asked to leave and re-schedule an appointment via telehealth with the clinic.

From there, patients progressed to the one of four bays, where they received their vaccination from either a doctor, nurse or medical student.

Volunteers, including people from the local football and Apex clubs in the area, then marshalled vehicles into four lines, where they waited for 15 minutes to ensure there were no adverse reactions to the vaccine. A doctor and nurse patrolled the area.

“The patients were also told to toot the horn if they had a [reaction] medical problem… we didn’t hear any horn tooting so that was good,” Gabby says.

Gabby says the seriousness of the exercise helped underscore the gravity of the pandemic for locals.

“I think it made them realise the importance of social distancing, that we wouldn’t go to this effort if it wasn’t important.”

Practice Manager at the clinics, Sonya Irvine, says Gabby’s efforts were crucial to the success of the program.

“That’s Gabby, she just gets on and does it… she’s a well organised person,” Sonya says.

Sonya also believes this year’s vaccination events were so successful that the clinic is confident it will be able to cover remaining patients within its regular schedule, reducing the demand on the clinic throughout the winter months.

“I think now we can just handle the two or three or four that come through the practice door daily… I think we’ll be fine.”

Sonya is also quick to pay tribute to the efforts of locals in both supporting the sessions and turning up to receive their vaccination.

“I think that’s the beauty of being in a small community. Everyone helps everyone… So as soon as someone is going to put something together, you’ve got a band of people wanting to help.”

Gabby also believes the same.

“We’re lucky, [the community] support such events like this, and we’re also lucky that we have such a good team at the surgery.”

“I think that’s what makes things successful for us.”

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